Last week we organized the 1st generation of MIT Technology Review Magazine’s Innovators Under 35 Awards in Turkey. The project was sponsored by Turkey’s one of the biggest banks, Garanti Bank and supported by various actors from the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem; Endeavour, e-Tohum, JCI, Odtü Teknokent, Arı Teknokent, KAGİDER etc..
We had some media partners for the project too; daily economy newspaper Dünya, monthly economy magazine Turkish Time, monthly innovation and entrepreneurship magazine Turkish Time and innovation and technology website/magazine Bilgi Çağı.
As they express on their website; The MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Project represent a link between the main players in the innovation sector worldwide, and are building one of the largest international talent networks.
It was an exciting experience for me not only I was the project coordinator for the communication activities, but also it was a pretty good opportunity to work for this prestigious publication and with the team behind it, Opinno (A global innovation consultancy firm, providing services to transform organizations through design, prototyping and validation of new products, services and business models, using lean development, open innovation methodologies and user experiencie).
We have been conducting the project for a couple of months actually. It started with the announcement of the application for the awards, and then the selection of the jury, determining the finalists and finally the awards ceremony and announcement of the “Innovator of the Year” and “Social Innovator of the Year”.
During the ceremony last Wednesday in Istanbul, the ten finalists presented their projects to an audience full of Turkish leaders in innovation and entrepreneurialism.
What saddened me during the event was the fact that only a few of the winners actually designed and implemented their projects in Turkey. This was what tabled during the panels “hunting the innovators” and “comparing the Silicon Valley and the Bosphorus innovation ecosystem” too. Some of the questions raised were : Why can not Turkey be a good host for local innovators ? What is the country lacking on this ? Is it only the education problem or does it have anything to do with the parents too ?
There is not a single truth or a correct answer to these questions, of course. But what has been good is that at least we created a platform to talk and debate on these issues.
You can see all winners of the awards from the website. The Innovator of the Year has been Ms. Canan Dağdeviren (29) who designed a biocompatible device (pace maker) to harvest and store piezoelectric energy directly from the motion of the heart. And the Social Innovator of the Year has been Ms. Duygu Kayaman. Kayaman designed a mobile application, inspired from her own experiences as a blind person, that uses voice recognition to simplify daily activities for those who are visually impaired.
In the end, it has been really nice to see that two Innovators of the Year have been women. However, the results mainly showed that it is not a problem of being male or female. It is an issue of providing the equal opportunity and education system to all young generation of the society.